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"Cairo: New Testimonies of an Ongoing Revolution" opens at MKG in Hamburg
Demonstranten während einer Rede auf dem Tahrir-Platz, Kairo, 8. April 2011, Foto: Mosa’ab Elshamy.

HAMBURG.- The exhibition “Cairo. New Testimonies of an Ongoing Revolution”, which will be on display from 16 August onwards at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, revolves around the political and social awakening of a generation which became visible to the world public when the mass protests began on Tahrir Square in Cairo on 25 January 2011 and has remained a major force in Egyptian society to this day. The story is told above all by Egyptian artists and photographers, activists and curators who lend the events expression from their own perspectives. The individual sections of the show were curated by well-known figures of the Cairo art world, among them the artists Lara Baladi and Heba Farid, the photographers Thomas Hartwell and Tarek Hefny, artist-activist Jasmina Metwaly, film maker Philip Rizk, and the journalists Rowan El Shimi and Alex Nunns. At the same time, the project examines the role of images and the digital networks which played a part in initiating the rebellion as well as in recording and circulating it around the world, and thus documents a new chapter in the history of images. Works by sixty-two artists will be on view, including classical photojournalistic works by professional photographers, photojournalistic reports from the Egyptian daily El Shorouk, photos and videos by amateurs, artistic works, and a wall featuring Twitter tweets and newspaper clippings. Like the recent liberation movements in the Arab world themselves, the exhibition is an experimental, continuously selfrenewing project. It does not represent a finished process; on the contrary it elevates the open-endedness of political processes to the status of a formal principle, reflects on current political changes, and integrates new works. Accordingly, images emerging after President Mohamed Mursi’s overthrow will also be on display. The project was developed in cooperation with artists, activists, photographers and curators from the Cairo art scene.

The exhibition will shed light on the changes which have come about in the photojournalistic documentation of the events within the framework of the struggle for the prerogative of interpretation. Throughout the Arab revolution, innumerable pictures have been taken by amateurs and disseminated on the social media. The exhibition will examine the role played by these new pictorial documents and the function of the digital networks, which also served to trigger the revolt, document, and spread it around the world. The chief focus will be on the extremely varied uses of the camera-based media of photography and video: pictures taken by photojournalists, video recordings shot by activists and “civilian journalists”, and documents collected by artists. Particularly photography – a medium which itself is undergoing major changes – will be visible here in all its many possible functions: to express opinions, influence the course of events, create memories, commemorate victims, and bear witness.

Photography shaped the idea of “images as testimonies to the truth” in a special way. In the age of the digital media and in the specific context of the Egyptian revolution, the photographic medium faces new challenges and new opportunities alike. The omnipresent eye of the digital devices, new distribution channels and alternative journalism all contribute to changing the perspective on the events, and confront institutionalized journalism with alternative approaches. Yet however great the significance of images as testimonies, we must remain aware of the fact that it is not the Internet and the social media but the people on the street, with their pent-up despair and their courage, who set the upheavals in motion.

Since the outbreak of the revolution, artists have adopted different approaches to using their own means of expression – art – to respond to the social and political turmoil. Many of them initially prefer to join the people on the streets as activists rather than to process the events artistically. Others subversively present their art in the urban realm; still others refuse any type of representation. Gradually, works emerge in which the role of images is also questioned. In this process as well, attitudes of witness-bearing and resistance are expressed, but with formal means which differ from journalistic documentation of the daily occurrences.

The extensive exhibition will be divided into individual sections and stations. They will serve as a basis for dialogue between the images and the presentation of a wide range of pictorial forms and attitudes side by side, but also their mutual opposition: the title pages of newspapers will be shown alongside photo series from blogs, the icons of the events next to unseen pictures of the people on the streets, images of the martyrs in a room with long-term documentation projects. The juxtaposition of the online medium Twitter and the traditional daily El Shorouk, for example, will allow viewers to compare how these two media process the events. The role played by the digital social networks will be investigated in online communities such as flickr, with works by Jonathan Rashad and Mosa’ab Elshamy, and youtube, as illustrated by the work of the artist Lara Baladi, and with the aid of an entirely new documentary genre, “video witnessbearing”. The show will moreover cast a glance at an already obsolete photojournalistic culture in black and white, and at an iconography of public protest in the country’s collective memory.

Participating artists, activists and curators: Myriam Abdelaziz, Peter van Agtmael, Roger Anis, Antro, Kim Badawi, Mostafa Bahgat, Lara Baladi, Ahmed Basiony, Kaya Behkalam, Taha Belal, Eva Bertram, Sarah Carr, Denis Dailleux, Osama Dawod, Johanna Domke und Marouan Omara, Mosa´ab Elshamy, Hossan El-Hamalawy, Mohamed Ezz, Fadi Ezzat, Heba Farid, Nermine Hammam, Thomas Hartwell, Aly Hazzaa, Tarek Hefny, Eman Helal, Gigi Ibrahim, Magdi Ibrahim, Ahmed Kamel, Mahmoud Khaled, Heba Khalifa, Nadine Khan und Mariam Mekiwi, Heba El Kholi, Ahmed Abdel Latif, Maha Maamoun, Alex Majoli, Mohamed El Maymony, Thawra Media, Jasmina Metwaly, Chris Michalski und Sebastian Stumpf, George Mohsen, Samuel Mohsen, Mosireen, Jehan Nasr, Mohammad Nouhan, Nasser Nouri, Alex Nunns, Maggie Osama, Ivor Prickett, Jonathan Rashad, Philip Rizk, Ibrahim Saad, Michael Schäfer, Randa Shaath, Ravy Shaker, Mohamed El Sheshtawy, Rowan El Shimi, Lobna Tarek, Lilian Wagdy, Sally Zohny

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